Six Sharp Questions
1. Congratulations, you have a new book, 10 Futures. What is it about and what does it mean to you?
10 Futures is a series of linked stories looking at ten different, possible futures for humanity over the next hundred years. The stories are linked by the presence of two friends who have to cope with a world often dramatically different to our own.
10 Futures is a return for me to what might be called science fiction. The stories deal with major challenges to our species: climate change, overpopulation, the impact of medical miracles and the biological revolution. We know these things are going to happen, but what is the impact going to be? The best way to prepare for the future is to imagine it.
I spent a month in London last year, which was an extraordinarily magical time. The worst time I had last year was missing out on the Booker Prize – AGAIN!
3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.
‘The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel.’ It’s the opening line of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and it’s one of the great opening lines. It’s evocative, mysterious, moody and a warning to the reader: you’re stepping into a strange, strange world here.
I’m a pleasure to live with. In fact, if I had to live with someone, I’d choose me. I cook, I wash, I clean. I walk the dog. I garden, producing fresh vegetables for the table. I play music that is soothing and perfect for any occasion. I entertain in a way that people talk about for days. I return books that are lent to me. I banish mould from the bathroom. I change fuses before they burn out. I keep the carpets clean.
And I daydream a lot.
5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).
I’m aware of the market, naturally, but I’ve learned a long time ago that you can go crazy trying to pick the next trend. I understand the need for a writer to promote themselves, judiciously, so I do what I can, especially in the world of the web. I’m more conscious of what my fans are interested in than in what the market is interested in. There is a difference.
The Collected Works of Shakespeare. Because we could put on plays, and that’s fun. Also, these plays are about what it means to be human, and civilised, and aware.
Michael, thank you for playing.